NEW DELHI: The armed forces continue to lose around 100 personnel to suicides every year despite successive governments holding that several measures have been taken to reduce the stress among soldiers. As many as 125 military personnel took the extreme step to end their lives in 2016.
Replying to question in Lok Sabha on Friday, minister of state for defence Subhash Bhamre said 101 soldiers, 19 airmen and five sailors committed suicide last year, with another three cases of fratricide (to kill a fellow soldier or superior) being reported from the three Services.
This year, 13 Army jawans have already committed suicide, while two such cases have been reported from the IAF.
Soldiers posted in far-flung areas often undergo tremendous mental stress for not being able to take care of the problems being faced by their families back home, which could range from property disputes and harassment by anti-social elements to financial and marital problems, as was earlier reported by TOI.
Prolonged deployment in counter-insurgency operations in J&K and Northeast also takes a toll on the physical endurance and mental health of soldiers. All this is also compounded by poor salaries, lack of basic amenities, denial of leave and ineffectual officer leadership.
Bhamre, on his part, stressed the government had taken various measures to prevent such incidents.
"These include improvement in living and working conditions through provision of better infrastructure and facilities; additional family accommodation; liberalised leave policy; establishing grievance redressal mechanism; conduct of yoga and meditation as part of the unit routine etc," he said.
"A large number of officers have been trained as counsellors to provide counselling to defence personnel and their families. Civilian psychological counsellors have also been employed to provide mental health services.
Psychologists also visit units and formations from time to time to carry out counselling, individually and at times in groups," he added.
But a major problem that continues is that civil and police district administrations around the country are now largely unresponsive to the grievances of soldiers and their families unlike before.
"One of the biggest worries for jawans is the hardships their families face back home. With mobile phones, our jawans keep on getting constant updates from their families, which adds to their mental stress and strain," said an officer.